OpEd: It’s Time for Disneyland to File a Lawsuit to Reopen

in Disneyland Resort

Disneyland

I’m not going to mince words here. Personally, I believe that California Governor Gavin Newsom’s insistence on forcing the Disneyland Resort to stay closed is wrong and has done more harm than good. It is time to lawyer up and take the governor to court.

Recently, when asked about whether or not California theme parks would seek legal action to reopen despite the stringent guidelines, California Attractions and Parks Association Executive Director Erin Guerrero stated, “All options are open at this point. We’re going to continue to explore our options. Our number-one goal is to reopen responsibly … at this point, any options are viable.”

Disneyland President Ken Potrock chimed in, saying the following:

“The concept of trying to come up with a collaborative solution I think is the end goal for all of us, one that is fair and balanced and takes in all of the factors…we all gladly and willingly would roll up our sleeves and work with the administration to do so, but it has to be a back-and-forth dialogue, not just a ‘you told us what to do, and we’re doing that with intent.”

I get it; nobody wants to go to court. It appears that nobody wants this conversation to turn into a fight. And let me be clear, I count myself among them. I, personally, never want to see it come to this. But come on — it has been over seven months since Disneyland and Disney California Adventure closed! Billions of dollars and thousands of jobs have been lost.

Related: Amusement Park Association Urges Newsom To Reopen Disneyland

It appears to me that Newsom has run out of reasons for refusing to reopen, and the only way we can get Disneyland and everything else reopened seems to be, unfortunately, if legal action is taken.

California’s Governor has claimed that he is making his decisions based on facts and science:

“I understand the dialectic, the friction, the frustration that many business leaders have that they want to move forward sectorally to reopen. But we’re going to be led by a health-first framework and we’re going to be stubborn about it. And that’s our commitment, that’s our resolve.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom
Credit: Rich Pedroncelli/AP

Related: LA Chamber of Commerce Rejects Continued Theme Park Closure

But I personally believe he’s not leading from a health-first framework, and the only commitment he has is to his own stubbornness.

After instituting procedures that have worked at Walt Disney World — where proportionally the pandemic spread was worse than in California — and every other Disney Park around the world, Disney’s Chief Medical Officer Pamela Hymel spoke out against Newsom’s claims:

“We absolutely reject the suggestion that reopening the Disneyland Resort is incompatible with a “health-first” approach. The fact is, that since March we have taken a robust science-based approach to responsibly reopening our parks and resorts across the globe. Our health and safety protocols were developed in consultation with epidemiologists and data scientists, and after considering guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and experts in local government and health agencies. All of our other theme parks both in the United States and around the world have been allowed to open on the strength of our proven ability to operate with responsible health and safety protocols.”

But take away the supposed Disney bias — even Orange County Health Officials say it’s time to reopen sooner rather than later. 

According to the OC Register:

Local health authorities have given the green light for Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm to reopen while California theme parks await reopening guidelines from Gov. Gavin Newsom after more than six months of coronavirus closures.

The Orange County Health Care Agency has recommended the state allow Disneyland, Disney California Adventure and Knott’s Berry Farm to reopen once Orange County moves into the “moderate” tier of Newsom’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy, according to county health officer and agency director Clayton Chau.

disneyland entrance
Credit: Disney

Newsom even sent a team to Disney World to see the theme parks’ health and safety procedures for themselves. Dr. Mark Ghaly shared the following:

“We also had the opportunity to send a small team to some of the operating parks in other parts of the nation, and they came back with lots of valuable lessons. Things that we saw that we were very reassured by were really great management of how lines were managed, keeping separate groups apart while in a line, while on a ride — really great lessons learned there. But also some things that, you know, raised some concern. The level of mixing, even without masks, that seemed very random and concerning to us. So those different areas of information were really assimilated and guided where we landed with this guidance.”

Yet even when they called Disney’s bluff on their health and safety protocols, it seems to me that they are pulling hairs and thinking of every excuse not to reopen.

Sure, it would be great if everybody could just hunker down and wait for this scary virus to magically fade away. But it is not going to happen, and not all of us — myself included — have the privilege of being able to sit and wait for that to happen. We are going to have to learn how to live with this time and go on with our lives. Walt Disney World Resort and Universal Orlando Resort in Florida are living proof that we can do so.

disney masks
Credit: Matt Stroshane/Walt Disney World Resort via Getty Images

Related: OpEd: Disneyland Has Every Right to Reopen

I agree that the shutdown at first was necessary and began in order to save people’s lives. But I believe now it’s doing nothing but destroying them. Thousands are now out of work at Disneyland alone, and an estimated 80,000 jobs in Anaheim have been affected. It is projected that Southern California as a whole will lose $5 billion due to Disneyland Resort’s extended closure.

From my perspective, it appears that the financial, mental, and physical state of the people of California is deteriorating not because of a fear of this virus but because they now have no job and are losing their livelihood. That is my biggest concern. I am not some selfish Disney addict dying to get back into the California Disney theme parks for my own enjoyment. I worry about the Cast Members and all the third-party workers who rely on the business and tourism Disneyland brings in order to maintain their livelihoods and continue their own pursuits of happiness. I’m going to say a tired cliche here: the cure is worse than the disease, and I believe this cure is extremely unconstitutional.

Related: CA Theme Park Presidents Fear Economic Fallout of Reopening Guidelines

Companies like The Walt Disney Company seemingly go along with the closure for the common good and to keep the peace. Even I will admit that in the beginning — from spring through mid-summer — it was an admirable and necessary decision. I applaud Disney’s continued attempts to work with the existing government, from Bob Iger immediately joining Newsom’s task force to Potrock’s patience this far down the line and everyone’s continued work to appeal to the Governor.

But the compliance was still a conscious choice, and through my understanding of the Constitution, they can go against Newsom’s orders whenever they want. Just look at Elon Musk, who told the folks in Sacramento that he was reopening his Tesla plant, whether they like it or not. I believe Disney could do just that!

disneyland at night matterhorn
Credit: Disney

But Disneyland Resort is too big and too established in California to go that route. They have a responsibility for an entire town, county, and region. They’ve got to take a stand to set clear precedence in federal court that Newsom can’t keep them shut down so the rest of Anaheim, Orange County, and Southern California and also begin to reopen.

Related: ‘We Will Not Stop Working Until We Open Disneyland,’ Says Park President

It appears to me that Newsom is acting as a real-life Disney villain, the proverbial Mother Gothel to Disneyland’s Rapunzel, a modern-day Claude Frollo who fails to listen to reason and is allowing his self-righteousness to destroy the cities he’s sworn to protect. I see his hands in a stranglehold grip on the Disneyland Resort, Universal Studios Hollywood, every other California theme park, and every small business and family that relies on these parks to survive. And it seems like his only resolve is to keep Disneyland and the rest of the Golden State at the mercy of his administration.

Disneyland

The presentation of science and data didn’t get Disneyland reopened. The reports of layoffs and suffering communities didn’t get Disneyland reopened. Witnessing the work actually being done at Disney World didn’t get Disneyland reopened. It is time to force his clenched hands wide open. As Prince Phillip once stood ready to face Maleficent’s dragon fury, it is now time for the hero of this story to step up and defeat the villain. It is time for Disney to take Governor Newsom to Federal Court, so The Happiest Place On Earth can finally open its gates once again.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this article do not reflect those of Inside the Magic overall. 

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